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Roadshow to Rehydrate Queensland

Posted by Bestprac on Dec 06 2010

By Mick Alexander, Grazing BestPrac

More than 40 primary producers from central western Queensland region attended a one day forum and field days on climate change – titled “Healthy Soils, Healthy pastures”, held at Blackall on the 3rd November. The program was run by grazing specialist, Mick Alexander of Grazing BestPrac and funded by AWI Bestprac as well as Federal Government support from FarmReady. The program sourced two of the top non government NRM speakers in Australia to present the latest science and practical systems for managing the variable climate. The forum had a practical session in the paddock at Peter and Lorna Evan’s property “Woodbine”, to consider the application of the concepts. Producers attended from as far afield as Alpha, Charleville, Muttaburra, Longreach, Springsure and Tambo.

The speakers included, Dr Maarten Stapper who is an ex CSIRO senior research scientist and farming systems agronomist as well as the iconic Mr Peter Andrews, who is famous for his redesigning the Australian landscape to rehydrate the land. Both speakers have been well known around Australia for their time on the ABC TV Australian Story segments in the past 2 years. The two speakers are highly sought after advocates for improving the health of the soil and pasture base as well as working on biological systems. They discussed the need to get away from the old thinking of the 1960’s and to create a new paradigm for the management of our natural resources in Australia and to reduce the myriad of land management regulations and policies (more than 1400 Australia wide) to enable real NRM outcomes. Mr Andrews said we are over-regulated and it is these policies which are crippling the innovative ideas that could save agriculture and our planet.

The focus of the day was on soil, microbes, plants and rainfall management to ensure we have a sustainable base for agriculture into the future. Dr Stapper and Mr Andrews said, as producers and extension people, we need to think more about the systems we are managing and assess how each action is affecting all parts. Dr Stapper is a world renowned scientist who believes many of our research organizations including CSIRO are going down the wrong pathway. Many specialists are being ‘bought off’ by corporate interests in an effort to obtain research funding to write scientific papers and stay in business. This process is continuing as governments are increasingly pulling out of research in agriculture and scientists becoming more specialized in narrow fields unable to improve agricultural activities in the landscape. Dr Stapper’s farming background has given him a grounding in natural systems and problem solving which has assisted him to help hundreds of farmers in the past years. Instead of maximising natural systems, CSIRO is trying to use genetic engineering (GM) to fix problems. However, this is working on symptoms of problems not the cause, degraded soils, which have been created by the corporate chemical overload in past years. He said, we need to get back to basics and manage for the health of our soil as this will be the only way to feed the world in the future. Dr Stapper also outlined the need to assess the condition of our soils from a physical, chemical and biological view point. He added, the three areas need to be balanced to ensure healthy plants, animals and humans. Dr Stapper said the problems with chronic diseases are directly linked to the quality of the food we are eating and the chemicals we use in the management of stock, land and house. He said the problems we have today with production of wool or meat or crops cannot be fixed by using a genetic fix or more chemicals or fertilizers. We must get back to a biological system and begin with healthy soil, then plants, then humans, he said. Healthy soils need active soil biology and improved soil carbon through proper management with minimum use of synthetics. Dr Stapper had excellent insight about the way the scientific systems are working from the inside and can see clearly the corruption and damage it is doing to our industries.

The second part of the program was presented by Mr Peter Andrews, from the Hunter Valley region in New South Wales. Mr Andrews concentrated on the need to rehydrate the landscape by slowing down the overland flow, reducing runoff from grazing lands and re-instigating the natural flow lines of the original chain of ponds system. He has worked with farmers and graziers all around Australia to repair the damage being done by livestock, fire and our management. Mr Andrews explains the key is to increase the amount of mulch on the ground to assist microbes to cycle nutrients and to grow more green plants. Many of Mr Andrews ideas are scoffed at by conventional farmers and chemical scientists as he believes:

All plants including weeds have a role to play in repairing the landscape.
Trees and woody vegetation are a necessary to cycle nutrients from depth.
The daily water cycle (dew formation) is essential for growing plants.
The underground water tables support all life on earth.
Many participants said this was the best forum or field day ever held in the regions, as it combined the latest research science with practical hands on experience. Participants could understand the fundamentals behind Natural Sequence Farming, but agreed it would be necessary to have Peter Andrews design some earthworks to improve water infiltration. Mr Andrews said it was difficult for landholders in the region to undertake essential works to repair the landscape when government policy was destroying it so blatantly. One of the exciting outcomes of the day is a group of graziers are organizing a bus trip to the Hunter Valley region in early 2011 to inspect the rehabilitation sites with Mr Andrews.

If you are interested in finding out more or attending, please phone Mick Alexander at the Grazing BestPrac Office on 07 4938 3919.

View Photo Gallery of Images from the day

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry under the FarmReady initiative, part of Australia’s Farming Future.

Last changed: Feb 07 2012

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